In this, his 19th novel, Crais introduces his readers to Scott James, a Los Angeles cop nearly killed in the line of duty, and to Maggie, a military working dog who barely survived a bombing and sniper attack in Afghanistan. As occurs in real life, both man and dog struggle with the psychic wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder, reliving terror and tragic losses.
Crais wrote this tale of how their lives come together as a tribute to Yoshi, a dog he loved and lost.
“My big dog, Yoshi, died 16 years ago,” Crais says. “He was 12 years old, and had been my dog since six weeks after his birth. He grew from a fuzzy, black-and-white sausage into a towering, 105–pound guardian who looked like a scowling bear. During most of his 12 years, he protected my family when I was away, and all of us when I was home. His loyalty was absolute. At the end of his days, he died in my arms, me blubbering like a baby.”
When any of us loses such a beloved dog, grief counselors suggest one way to heal is to write about the good things from that special relationship. In this case,the writer happens to be one of the most revered suspense novelists of our time.
“Creating Maggie, a retired USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) German Shepherd patrol dog who lost her handler in Afghanistan and who becomes a police patrol dog suffering from canine PTSD, helped clarify my fierce loyalty to Yoshi, and his to me, and why dogs have such an importance in my life,” Crais explains.
“From a dog’s point of view, the dog-human relationship is simple,” he adds. “They do what they do to please us or save us. It was out of respect for this special relationship that I strove to present Maggie’s world as accurately as our current understanding of canine behavior allows.”
In the novel, Crais describes with stunning clarity how the nose and mind of a dog perceives the world, keen and perceptive beyond the capabilities of any device created by man.
“This desire for accuracy — and my fascination for these dogs — stems from true stories of military working dogs so devoted to their wounded or dead handlers, they protect their dying handlers with their own bodies, letting no one near,” he says. “I wanted to get inside Maggie’s head, and Yoshi’s, and your dog’s, and pay homage to this pure, special bond.”
Reliving that special relationship with his dog, and documenting the power of our connection to dogs, had a transformative impact on the author as well.
“I have cats now, and love them dearly, but I have never been able to replace my dog,” Crais says. “But as the years have gone on, and through the writing of Suspect (Putnam Adult, 2013, $27.95). I think I may be ready again.”
One caution: This is not a novel for the faint of heart, and contains street language and graphic portrayals of war and crime.